Therapies & Treatments

The following list contains information regarding traditional and non-traditional therapies and treatments. It should not be construed as medical advice and is not meant to be inclusive or complete. It is for general information purposes only and should not be viewed as an endorsement or approval for any of these interventions. Please consult with your child’s health care providers to determine appropriate therapies or treatments that will best meet your child’s individual needs.

A list of commonly used diets for individuals with special needs can be found at the bottom of this page!

Autism Spectrum Disorders

9th Planet Videos

9th Planet videos teach social and adaptive skills to young adults on the autism spectrum using both entertainment and direct instruction.  The series of short videos create the story of a fictional character - Tad Shy - from another planet who is learning to take care of himself, find a job, and develop relationships on a planet where continual social interaction is the norm.  Video behavior modeling has been cited as an effective strategy for teaching social skills to those on the autism spectrum.  For more information:  9th Planet Videos

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)

Sometimes referred to as the Lovaas, ABA is a time-intensive therapy used frequently for children with autism spectrum disorders. Individuals learn through the use of positive reinforcements using discrete-trial training. Tasks are broken down into smaller steps that build on each other to teach skills and affect behavior. For more information: Association for Behavior Analysis International or The Lovaas Institute

Autism Movement Therapy

Autism Movement Therapy is an interhemispheric sensory integration technique incorporating movement and music in collaboration with positive behavior support strategies to assist individuals with autism spectrum disorders in meeting and achieving their speech and language, social and academic IEP goals.  For more information:  Autism Movement Therapy

Biomedical Treatments for Autism

Biomedical treatments for autism include many different therapies used in a variety of combinations. The goal of biomedical treatments is to test and treat underlying issues behind gastrointestinal issues, environmental toxicity, immune system dysfunction and behavior. Treatments can include changes in diet (see below), supplements, digestive enzymes (to aid digestion), chelation (removing metals from the body), and antifungals and probiotics (to treat yeast issues). Treatments are tailored to meet the unique needs of each person. 

Fraser

Fraser provides a range of services for children, adolescents, adults, and families in the Twin Cities. Our offerings include early childhood
services, autism evaluations and services, mental health services, neuropsychology, rehabilitation, products and information to serve more
than 60 types of disabilities and disorders.  For more information:  Fraser

Minnesota Autism Center

The Minnesota Autism Center (MAC) provides therapeutic support for children, youth and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders
(ASD). MAC is staffed by highly trained professionals who provide Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy on an individualized basis
with the goal of reducing and eliminating the signs and symptoms of autism in children and youth.  For more information:  MAC

General and Other Disabilities

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese Medicine that uses fine needles placed in the skin at various locations to improve energy flow throughout the body. According to Chinese Medicine, the body has several channels running through it, called meridians, and blocks in the energy flow can cause pain, dysfunction and disease. Acupuncture helps restore balance in the body and restores energy flow called chi. For more information: National Center for Alternative and Complementary Medicine

Adult Down Syndrome Center

The mission of the Adult Down Syndrome Center is enhancing the well-being of adolescents, 12 and older, and adults with Down syndrome using a team approach to provide comprehensive, holistic, community-based health care services.  For more information:  Adult Down Syndrome Center

Alert Program®

The Alert Program is a program that uses self-regulation strategies to help children attain an optimal level state of alertness. The program uses an engine analogy to teach children when their “engine” is going into high, low, or just right gears. For more information: Alert Program

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is a type of alternative and complementary medicine that uses essential oils extracted from plants to promote health of mind, body, and spirit.  Essential oils have different properties that are used to treat a variety of conditions. For more information: National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy

Auditory Integration Training (AIT)

Auditory Integration Training is a sound therapy developed by Dr. Guy Berard, a French otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor). AIT is used treat disorganized auditory systems. The goal of AIT is to decrease sound sensitivity and improve communication and social interaction. For more information: AIT Institute

Ayurveda

Ayurveda is a type of  complementary and alternative medicine that originated in India thousands of years ago (ayur meaning life and veda meaning science or knowledge). Ayurveda focuses on treatments that balance body, mind and spirit to prevent illness and to promote health. Ayurvedic medicine describes three fundamental energies or doshas: Vata – wind, Pitta-fire, and Kapha-earth that need to be balanced to maintain health.

Brain Balance Center of Woodbury

Our unique Brain Balance Program addresses the whole child by integrating sensory motor training and stimulation and cognitive activities with nutritional and dietary guidelines.  For more information:  Brain Balance Center of Woodbury

Brain Gym

Based on the idea that learning is connected with movement, Brain Gym uses a specific set of movements to help coordinate the body. Brain Gym is designed to facilitate learning, increase self-esteem, improve body awareness and improve concentration and focus. Brain Gym has been used in the school setting with some reported positive results. For more information: Brain Gym International

Conductive Education

Developed in Hungary, Conductive Education is a teaching method used with individuals with neurologic motor challenges, including cerebral palsy. It integrates repetitive physical movements with cognitive tasks to help individuals gain control over body movements and to increase functional independence.  Conductive Education uses a holistic approach, working on all areas of development, with a focus on education in group settings. For more information: Association for Conductive Education in North America

Connector Rx

Connector Rx is a relational device that parents, caregivers and professions use to help children enhance social learning within their day-to-day activities.  This device has been shown to enhance the relationship between caregivers and their children including children having such conditions as autism spectrum disorder, pervasive developmental disorder, attachment disorder, attention deficit disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder among others.  For more information:  Connector Rx

Energy Therapies

Energy Therapies encompass a broad range of alternative therapies done by specially trained therapists who have developed their sense of touch and feel they are able to detect and treat very subtle imbalances. Qualifications and training vary widely among organizations, and this type of therapy is not licensed by the State of Minnesota. The following are examples of some energy therapies.  All are usually done with the client lying on a massage table, fully clothed; however accommodations can be made for children that are more comfortable seated in a chair or on the floor:

  • Cranial Sacral Therapy (CST)

According to the Upledger Institute, craniosacral therapy is a gentle, hands-on method of evaluating and enhancing the functioning of a physiological body system called the craniosacral system - comprised of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. Using a soft touch generally no greater than 5 grams, or about the weight of a nickel, practitioners release restrictions in the craniosacral system to improve the functioning of the central nervous system. By complementing the body's natural healing processes, CST is increasingly used as a preventive health measure for its ability to bolster resistance to disease, and is effective for a wide range of medical problems associated with pain and dysfunction.  For more information:  Upledger Foundation

  • Healing Touch

According to Healing Touch Program ™, Healing Touch is a biofield therapy that is energy-based approach to health and healing. It uses touch to influence the human energy system, specifically the energy field that surrounds the body, and the energy centers that control the energy flow from the energy field to the physical body.  These non-invasive techniques utilize the hands to clear, energize, and balance the human and environment energy fields thus affecting physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health and healing. It is based on a heart-centered caring relationship in which the practitioner and client come together energetically to facilitate the client’s health and healing.  For more information:  Healing Touch Program

  • Reiki

According to the Meta Institute, Reiki is a Japanese form of energy work used to relax, replenish, and heal the body. Although Reiki dates back 2500 to 3000 years, it was rediscovered in the 1800’s by Ur Usui, a Japanese man on a quest  to explain why physicians and other healers no longer had the power in their hands to heal people. REI means spiritual consciousness or wisdom; KI means life force. This spiritually guided life force energy, known as Reiki, is universal with an intelligence of its own. Dr. Usui believed that Reiki had been accessible to all people at one time. After a person is initiated into Reiki energy, whenever they place their hands on others or themselves, with the intention of using Reiki, the energy naturally flows.  For more information:  Meta Institute

Facilitated Communication

Facilitated Communication (FC) is a type of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) that assists individuals with poor muscle control and motor planning skills (dyspraxia). The facilitator supports and stabilized the individual at the arm, shoulder, wrist, etc. in order for them to communicate using a keyboard or other augmentative communication system, including pictures and symbols.

Fast ForWord®

Fast ForWord is a computer-based reading intervention program designed for children in K-12 to help with vocabulary and comprehension. The goal of Fast ForWord is to strengthen cognitive skills needed for reading and learning.

Floortime

Floortime™ is a form of therapeutic play developed by Dr. Stanley Greenspan, a child psychiatrist. During Floortime, parents engage a child in an enjoyable activity that the child finds interesting. With a focus on emotional development, the parent takes the child’s lead and interacts at their level, as the child works through a series of developmental milestones. For more information:  Floortime

Hippotherapy (Equine Therapy)

Hippotherapy (Hippo is the Greek word for horse) uses the movement of a horse as a therapy tool to help individuals with disabilities gain new functional skills. During hippotherapy, riders sit in varying positions:  forward, backward, supine (face up) and prone (face down) to experience the horse’s rhythmic, repetitive and variable movements of the horse. Improvements in muscle tone, mobility, balance, posture, coordination, motor development and emotional well-being are possible.  See Sports and Fitness section for Hippotherapy/Horseback Riding providers in this area. For more information: American Hippotherapy Association or Path International.  See Sports & Fitness section for a list of local hippotherapy providers.

Homeopathy

Homeopathy is a form of alternative medicine based on the principle called the Law of Similars, or “like cures like.” Homeopaths feel treating an individual with a highly diluted substance taken in large doses would create the symptoms the individual currently experiences and stimulate the healing response. For more information: National Center for Homeopathy

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is the use of inhaling 100% oxygen in a pressurized chamber to increase oxygen in bodily fluids. HBOT has been used to treat carbon monoxide poisoning and decompression sickness for divers, but has recently been used to treat other conditions. Studies are looking at HBOT to improve behavior in individuals with autism and treat brain injury in individuals with cerebral palsy and Rett syndrome. For more information: Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Studies, Reports and Resources

Integrated Listening Systems (iLs)

Building upon the psychoacoustic techniques originally developed in Europe and further refined over the past 8 years in the U.S. by Dynamic Listening Systems (DLS), iLs programs combine auditory stimulation with balance, movement and visual motor activities. For more information:  Integrated Listening Systems

Interactive Metronome (IM)

Interactive Metronome is an intensive computer-based neuro-motor therapy. IM is used for individuals who have challenges affecting motor planning, sequencing, concentrating, or sensory processing. Using head phones along with hand and foot plates, individuals learn to synchronize various movements and beats. Some  improvements shown with IM include: attention, focus, motor control, impulse control and language processing.  For more information:  Interactive Metronome

LearningRx

LearningRx focuses exclusively on training underlying cognitive skills that impact the ease of learning.  They provide non-academic training procedures that quickly strengthen the brain's core mental abilities (i.e. processing speed, attention, memory, auditory and visual processing and reasoning).  Throughout training, students are paired with their own private training specialist.  For more information:  LearningRx

Masgutova Neurosensorimotor Reflex Integration

Masgutova Neurosensorimotor Reflex Integration (MNRI) is a comprehensive set of programs that focus motor reflex and sensory system integration.  For more information:  MNRI

MeMoves

MeMoves is a multimedia product that transforms the mind and body through interactive "body puzzles."  The program simultaneously engages a person's auditory, visual, motor planning and sequencing, and limbic parts of the brain.  Each MeMoves sequence is a patented combination of music, movement and images, utilizing simple, geometric shapes.  For more information:  MeMoves

Music Therapy

Trained therapists use music as an intervention to treat physical, emotional, cognitive and social challenges. Music therapy reportedly reduces stress and pain and can increase communication and memory. Music therapy can be used in conjunction with other therapies. For more information: American Music Therapy Association. See Singing Heart below for a local music therapy provider.

Neurologic Music Therapy is a specific research-based music therapy that utilizes music and rhythm to improve cognitive, sensory and motor function for individuals with neurologic challenges. For general information: The Center for Biomedical Research in Music

Naturopathic Medicine

Naturopathic medicine is a form of alternative medicine that believes in the healing power of nature. A variety of holistic therapies and treatments are used to support the body’s innate ability to heal. Naturopathic Physicians (ND) complete a four-year graduate level course at a naturopathic medical school and focus on preventing illness and educating patients about healthy lifestyles. For more information: American Association of Naturopathic Physicians

Neurological Reorganization Therapy

Neurological Reorganization Therapy, is a clinically tested method to effectively treat neurodevelopmentally based challenges in children and adults.  Neurological Reorganization is based in the well demonstrated theory that the brain grows to its full potential in infancy due to the full expansion of natural reflexes, movement, and sensory experiences. For more information:  Neurological Reorganization Therapy

Occupational Therapy

The goal of Occupational Therapy (OT) is to help an individual maintain, improve or learn skills that will increase independence with life activities. OT can help with gross motor (large muscle) and fine motor (smaller muscle) delays and conditions. OT can help with dyspraxia, which is difficulty planning and executing body movements, or motor planning. Some occupational therapists provide Sensory Integration Therapy (see explanation below). A referral from the primary physician is usually needed for an assessment, and OT is covered by some private and public insurance plans if the child qualifies. Children work with pediatric occupational therapists.

PECS

PECS stands for Picture Exchange Communication System, and is an augmentative communication technique used by individuals with little or no speech.   Picture symbols are usually velcroed to a board or placed in a book and are removed and handed to or “exchanged” with a communicative partner as a form of expressive language. Advanced communicators can use symbols to form sentences, answer questions and express feelings.  For more information:  Pyramid Educational Consultants

Physical Therapy (PT)

Physical therapists treat developmental conditions or injuries that affect the ability to move the body and limit function. PTs help clients with stretching and other exercises to increase muscle strength and improve  mobility. PTs work with clients  that have problems with muscle tone (the tension in the muscle at rest.)  Developmental conditions, such as Down syndrome or cerebral palsy can cause muscles to be floppy or rigid at rest. A referral from the primary physician is usually needed for an assessment, and PT is covered by some private and public insurance plans if the child qualifies. Children work with pediatric physical therapists.

Rapid Prompting Method (RPM)

The Rapid Prompting Method (RPM) is an academic teaching method which leads to communication for verbal and non-verbal persons with autism and similar disorders.  During each session, the teacher aims to stimulate left-brain learning despite a student's stims/behaviors.  Through the use of written choices, stencil boards, laminated letter boards, and eventually a keyboard and/or handwriting, RPM uses prompting to initiate a student's independent response without physical support.  For more information:  ACE Teaching & Consulting

Relationship Developmental Intervention (RDI)

Relationship Development Intervention or RDI is based on work by psychologist Steven Gutstein. RDI uses specific techniques and tools in a systematic way to teach social skills that typically develop during childhood, but are challenging for children with autism and other developmental disorders. Learning and understanding the joy that can result from friendships and sharing experiences with others can result in emotional connections and authentic, meaningful relationships.   For more information:  RDI Connect

Sensory Integration Treatment (SI) - Ayres

Ayres Sensory Integration Treatment  is the process the brain uses to organize and process sensory information. For some children, this process is not working correctly and they can over or under react to touch, sound, movement, etc. Children with sensory processing issues can react in a variety of ways. For example,  children may seek out or avoid movement, may want to touch everything or may avoid certain textures, or may be hyper or hypo sensitive to sound.   Emotional dysfunction is also possible. The goal of Sensory Integration Treatment is to facilitate the nervous system in integrating incoming sensory information in a meaningful way.

Parent Fact Sheet – Signs and Symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder

Singing Heart

Singing Heart provides music therapy services for infants, children, adolescents and adults with developmental disabilities or other health impairments in the Twin Cities area.  A board certified music therapist provides an initial assessment, formulates goals and objectives, creates a treatment plan, and charts client progress through the course of therapy.  For more information:  Singing Heart

Speech and Language Therapy (SLT)

Speech and Language Therapists can assist with a variety of conditions. Speech issues can include articulation problems, which is difficulty with pronouncing certain sounds correctly. SLT’s can also help with fluency issues, such as stuttering.  Speech apraxia is a motor planning disorder where the brain has difficulty sending messages to coordinate facial muscles to produce desired sounds. SLT can also help with language disorders, including the understanding of speech/language (receptive language) and communicating (expressive language), and can help clients with sign language, and augmentative communication devices. Another area therapists can help  with is eating and swallowing disorders. A referral from the primary physician is usually needed for an assessment, and SLT is covered by some private and public insurance plans if the child qualifies. Children work with pediatric speech and language therapists.

TEACCH

Training and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH) is an educational program developed in the 1970’s at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. TEACCH uses individualized curriculums to teach children with autism developmental skills. TEACCH environments are highly structured and utilize  visual schedules. The physical layout helps the child understand what tasks are expected of him/her with minimal instruction.  For more information:  TEACCH

The Incredible 5-Point Scale

The Incredible 5-Point Scale site was developed to share information about the use of the 5-point scale and other systems to teach social and emotional concepts to individuals on the autism spectrum. Companion books include: The Incredible 5-Point Scale that includes a 1-5 scale system that is applicable for a variety of behaviors and responses to behaviors, including feelings of anxiety, obsessions, concepts of personal space and feelings of anger.  For more information:  The Incredible 5-Point Scale

When My Worries Get Too Big is written from the perspective of a child and features a simple-to-use strategy that can help children with autism spectrum disorders successfully understand and cope with their own behavioral challenges in a positive, supportive fashion.

Therapeutic Listening

Therapeutic Listening is used to help those with auditory processing challenges and is used as part of the treatment for sensory integration dysfunction. (See section on Sensory Integration Therapy.) By listening with headphones to electronically altered music, the goal is to improve functioning of the nervous system, which can affect many aspects of development, including,  cognitive and social-emotional skills, language, alertness,  balance and postural security and modulation of behavior.  For more information:  Vital Links

TheraSuit Method Therapy

Intensive TheraSuit Method is an intensive individualized therapy program that accelerates functional progress.  The program uses the TheraSuit (a soft canvas suit with bungee-like cords attached) and the Univesal Exercise Unit ("spider cage") to allow the patient to learn new and correct patterns of movement through strengthening and functional skills practice.  For more information:  See Allina Health, TheraSuit Method

Vision Therapy

Vision Therapy is a doctor-supervised, non-surgical treatment to correct common vision problems that cannot be helped with corrective lenses, including:  strabismus (lazy eye), crossed eyes, and double or blurry vision. Vision therapy helps to train the eyes to work together correctly using exercises that are customized for each person. For more information: Vision Therapy

Irlen Lenses - The Irlen Method uses colored overlays and filters to improve the brain’s ability to process visual information. For more information: Irlen Method

Watsu

Watsu is a gentle aquatic body therapy where a client floats, fully supported, in the arms of therapist in warm water. The therapist moves in a fluid motion, inducing a deep state of relaxation. Watsu has been reported to reduce pain, increase mobility and flexibility, reduce anxiety, and decrease spasticity in individuals with special needs. For more information: Watsu Aquatic Bodywork and Therapy

Yoga

Yoga is an ancient Indian practice of achieving balance between body, mind and spirit. There are many types of yoga, and each has slightly different focus – breathing, precision of poses, endurance, etc. Yoga can be beneficial in increasing flexibility, balance and strength, as well as creating a peaceful and calm feeling in the body. Yoga classes can provide positive social experiences and emphasize an individualized and non-competitive approach. For more information: Yoga for Individuals with Disabilities.  See The Yoga Bridge (autism section) for a local yoga provider.

 

Special Diets:

There are a variety of dietary interventions used to help children with developmental disabilities, including autism. Diets are used to help relieve gastrointestinal issues and to improve behavior and overall functioning. Working with a professional in implementing any diet changes is recommended.

  • Body Ecology Diet (BED)

The Body Ecology Diet uses the principles of food combining, along with the use of cultured foods (probiotics), healthy fats, foods that help to maintain the body’s acid/alkaline balance, and restriction of sugars to help with yeast overgrowth issues to promote a healthy digestive tract. A healthy digestive tract may have a profound effect on overall health.  For more information:  Body Ecology

  • Elimination Diet

The Elimination Diet is used to help detect food allergies, sensitivities and intolerances. Foods that are suspected to be problematic are eliminated for a period of time and then added back one at a time. A diary is kept to track possible symptoms or adverse reactions to each food

  • Feingold Diet

The Feingold Diet restricts foods that contain artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners and preservatives, as it is felt these substances can affect learning and behavior for sensitive individuals. The Feingold Diet is used for individuals with ADD and ADHD. For more information: Feingold Assoc. of the US

  • Gluten free, Casein Free (GFCF)

The GFCF diet has been used for many children with autism spectrum disorders to help relieve gastrointestinal symptoms. Foods containing gluten:  wheat, barley, rye and sometimes oats (if contaminated by gluten in manufacturing process) are eliminated from the diet along with dairy products. Gluten and casein are proteins, and these proteins may be metabolized differently in children with autism, causing an opiate-like response that can affect brain function.  Although scientific studies have not verified this theory, many parents report improvements in their child’s bowels and overall behavior.

  • Ketogenic Diet

The Ketogenic Diet is a medical diet used to treat epilepsy and is usually considered after medications have been unsuccessful in controlling seizures. It is a very restrictive and precise diet containing 80% fat, is low in carbohydrates, and must be supervised by a doctor. By consuming a diet that is high in fat, the body burns ketones (instead of glucose if carbohydrates are eaten). Ketones suppress seizures, although it is still not completely understood why it works.

  • Low Oxalate Diet (LOD)

The Low Oxalate Diet restricts foods that are high in oxalates. Oxalates are found in a variety of foods, and if they are not properly metabolized and excreted, can form crystals and irritate tissues in the body.

  • Paleo Diet

The Paleo Diet is based on what cavemen ate thousands of years ago.  The diet includes unprocessed foods that can be found (gathered) or hunted.

  • Rotation Diet

The Rotation Diet is used when an individual is sensitive to certain foods, but can still eat them if they are only eaten periodically. Foods are rotated and eaten only once every four days or so. The Rotation Diet also can be useful in keeping food sensitivities from occurring.

  • Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet is used for those with yeast overgrowth and gut inflammation and other gastrointestinal issues. The diet restricts complex sugars and starchy carbohydrates and does not allow grains. Restricting these foods may help individuals who cannot properly digest these carbohydrates. The Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet (GAPS) diet is similar to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.   For more information:  Breaking the Vicious Cycle and Kids and SCD